Most detectives in fiction barely get recognition. Gil Grissom
, Jack Malone
and Sam Spade
could happily walk into a bookshop in their respective cities, seduce the owner
and leave without being recognized.
Not so for Smiths of the Yard. They are very well-known. The newspapers follow their activities. When there is a major crime and they are involved, the papers will say, "Smith of the Yard is on the case". If they're not and the crimes are particularly diabolical, the papers will call for their involvement. In Real Life
, the Yard is Scotland Yard, headquarters for the Metropolitan Police of Greater London. The Yard has become synonymous with police to the extent that any police version of the Nations of the World Montage
will feature a shot of the New Scotland Yard sign.
Truth in Television
in the United Kingdom in the 1920s and 1930s, but not today. The trope has largely died
(outside period pieces) with it.
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- Although his real identity is unknown to the vast majority of people, L in Death Note is considered the world's best detective and his tackling of the Kira case is covered world-wide. In fact, L uses his status as a Smith of the Yard to narrow his search for Kira by broadcasting his news conference exclusively in Japan. Kira, expecting news about L to be world-wide, responds immediately and falls for the trap.
- Judge Dredd is the epitome of the Judge system (he is the law after all). His reputation precedes him around the world. He actually won talked Sino city judges out of interfering in a regime change he was leading by telling them that they know him and his reputation. Then again, if you personally nuked the city who invaded yours, everybody would know you too.
- Hercule Poirot
- Sherlock Holmes
- Lampshaded in one story, as Holmes's need for disguises was explained to be a result of criminals recognizing him from all the coverage he was getting... including that from his good friend, Dr. Watson.
- It really doesn't help that Holmes has very striking features and is described as being very tall.
- Also in the patische, The Seven-Per-Cent-Solution, Holmes is in Germany for detoxification with Sigmund Freud, but finds a mystery to investigate to really get his spirits up. When the local police prefect learns that Holmes is on the case, he immediately sends a platoon of constables for the detective to use as he sees fit, apparently on the simple assumption that if Holmes on the case, then it must be important.
- A notable subversion in the film starring Robert Downey Jr. Holmes is universally known by many of the important people in the city, but is less known in the down low of things. While he is known for his eccentricities, he does not let his picture get taken and thus he is hard to describe in detail. This makes it easy for him to adopt a disguise whenever he needs one, and he is VERY good at it.
- In the first two novellas, it's the bumbling police detectives who serve as Smith of the Yard, as far as the papers are concerned.
- Detective Inspector (later Detective Chief Inspector, later still Chief Superintendent) Roderick Alleyn, actually a member of the CID and hero of Ngaio Marsh's novels. Early works have characters refer to him as "Handsome Alleyn" and comment on his fame, which he finds irritating. He will sometimes mention his frustration when talking to Nigel Bathgate, a journalist and occasional sidekick in the early books.
- Paul Temple
- The alternate history novel SS-GB has Douglas Archer. And he hates it when the newspapers call him, "Archer of the Yard".
- Not least because he lives in a history where the Nazis invaded Britain, and every mention of him in the newspapers further cements him in people's minds as a collaborator, meaning that there's many people who'd like to see him dead.
- In the Discworld books, everyone in Anhk-Morpork knows Captain Carrot. If you ask Vimes about his second-in-command's acquaintances, you'll conclude that everyone in the world knows Carrot. Once Ankh-Morpork gets a newspaper, Vimes himself is a regular feature in it as well.
Live Action TV
- Adrian Monk zig-zags with the trope, as his name does appear in the papers, but there are points in episodes where it is clear people are unaware of who he is. For example, in "Mr. Monk and the Paperboy", Monk proves that a businessman who committed a hit-and-run is innocent of killing a paperboy because he didn't react to the mention of Monk's name despite Monk putting an emphasized "the" on before his first name.
- Also, in "Mr. Monk Buys a House", when "Honest" Jake Phillips goes to kill his girlfriend Cassie Drake, this dialogue:
"Honest" Jake Phillips: See buttercup, that's why I'm here. We—we ran into a "bump" in the road today. Guess who bought the house? [Cassie doesn't answer] Adrian Monk.
Cassie Drake: I don't know him.
"Honest" Jake Phillips: He's onto you, Cassie.
- Hustle plays this one relatively straight in the 3rd season finale, with a detective famous for making big busts as the villain. He's not a nice man...
- Spike Milligan wrote a serial for The Two Ronnies entitled the Phantom Raspberry-Blower of Old London Town. The investigating officer was Corner of the Yard, aka. Ronnie Corbett.
- Becomes a major plot point in the second season finale of Sherlock. Sherlock had established a reputation prior to that, but found himself genuinely famous after solving several high profile cases. Moriarty ends up using it against him by manipulating public opinion and police suspicions against Sherlock in order to destroy him
- Bones: Brennan is this for the Jeffersonian, in part because she's brilliant, but mostly because she's the author of an exceedingly successful series of books.
- In an American example, Detective Cole Phelps of L.A. Noire begins to enjoy this as the game progresses, and it's particularly noticeable when people on the street recognize him as "that cop from the papers". It comes back to bite him when he's accused of adultery.
- The Trope Namer is Fabian Of The Yard, the real-life Inspector Robert Fabian, whose autobiography was called ''Fabian Of The Yard,'' and who appeared in a TV show based on his life work.
- A post 1930s example: Detective Sergeant Norman Pilcher of the Drug Squad, who gained a certain level of fame and notoriety in the 1960s by being the police officer at the centre of a number of high-profile celebrity drug busts, including Mick Jagger, Donovan, John Lennon and George Harrison. Given that it was nearly always the same man present, this led to accusations that he was either only going after them to increase his profile in the tabloids and / or actively planting drugs on them to secure a conviction (not that they weren't already actively using drugs for the most part, but still). The fact that he was later convicted of perjury and obstructing the course of justice didn't help his credibility when it came to these accusations.
- Similarly, Detective Sergeant Jack Slipper became known as "Slipper of the Yard" for his role investigating The Great Train Robbery. The Other Wiki notes that the fickle press later nicknamed him "Slip-Up of the Yard" after his attempts to bring Ronnie Biggs to justice continued to fail. Nonetheless, he eventually retired as a Chief Superintendent, so it wasn't a massive hindrance to his career.
- Eugène-François Vidocq was one of these in France for a while, before he was slandered and eventually fired for being a former convict and using informers effectively. However, he started the first private detective agency shortly after and was able to coast on his name-recognition until the police arrested him on trumped-up charges and took all his files.
"Ha ha ha! 'Look out of the yard' - very good!"